Many parents as well as some educators are under the misunderstanding that a dual language program is exactly the same as a bilingual program. Although both programs share a common goal of producing students that are proficient in English, the dual language program has an additional goal; to graduate students that are proficient in a second language. This second goal is only one of the many benefits that program has to offer students. Other benefits include an appreciation and respect of other cultures as well as having a strong sense of community.
There are two implementation models for the dual language program; the 50/50 model and the 90/10 model. Along the South Texas border, dual classrooms are usually made up of English and Spanish speakers. In the 50/50 model, students are delivered instruction in their native language for half of the instructional day and in the second language for the other half of the day. Dual instruction can also be scheduled so that native language and second language instruction is provided on alternate days or even weeks. This would depend on how school administration decides to implement the program. In the 90/10 model, students are instructed in their native language for 90% of the time and in English for 10% of the time, beginning in Kindergarten. Each year the percentage of English instruction increases up until the 5th grade. By the 5th grade, students should be taught in both languages and with an equal amount of time in each language. By then it is our hope that they be proficient in English in preparation for the state assessment, STAAR. After the 5th grade students are not afforded to test in their native language.
As aforementioned, the primary benefit of dual language program is that students learn a second language. By learning a second language, students are impacted in many ways. To begin with they are able to read, write, understand and think in another language. Students who have this ability are more marketable when it is time for them to enter the very competitive global job market. This is one of the advantages they have over their monolingual peers since we live in a country that is considered a melting pot of different cultures. Also according to Canadian psychologist Ellen Bialystock, “bilingual children are better at solving verbal and nonverbal problems that contain misleading and confusing aspects.” Her study also revealed that bilingual children were better at detecting grammatical errors and extracting words from continuous verbal sentences. (Jirage)
In addition to the proficiency in a second language, students that are part of a dual language program learn to appreciate and be tolerant of different cultures. Teachers provide multicultural experiences in the classroom through the daily instruction. For example during a social studies lesson, a Spanish speaking student might share some of the traditional foods that are served during Christmas in their home such as buñuelos and ojarascas while an English speaking student might present a traditional American Christmas dish such as a green bean casserole. It is also through activities like these that a classroom of English and Spanish speakers become a community; a community of learners that depend on each other to succeed in the classroom. They learn to respect each other and appreciate each other’s backgrounds.
Even one more benefit of being a bilingual speaker, is that of personal health. According to a study by Professor Jared Diamond of UCLA, children who grow up in a bilingual family have a lesser chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. (Jirage)
Furthermore, other studies have shown that elderly people that speak more than one language tend to maintain their cognitive alertness for more years than their monolinguals counterparts. (Jirage) In my opinion, that alone is a very worthy reason to learn a second language.
The former is just the tip of the iceberg (understanding idioms is yet another benefit), there are a multitude of benefits to being a dual language speaker. I can empathize with those students that are starting out in their journey to learning the English language. However, I can also testify to the success that being a dual language speaker has brought to my life.
Jirage, Reshma. "Benefits of Being Bilingual." Buzzle. Buzzle.com, 17 May 2013. Web. 4 Aug 2013. .
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